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Richard Leibner, famed agent of prominent TV journalists, dies at 85

Richard Leibner, a prominent media agent who represented the who's who of TV news, died after a battle with cancer at the age of 85.

Richard Leibner, an influential talent agent known for representing some of the most prominent voices in cable news, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 85.

Throughout his 58-year career, Leibner garnered a reputation as a pioneer in the media industry, representing major media personalities, including Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer and Norah O’Donnell. 

Formerly an accountant, he founded N.S. Bienstock, a media representation firm responsible for developing the careers of several well-known TV journalists. He was known as a tough negotiator, who capitalized on opportunities he foresaw in the ever-changing media landscape and maintained his role as a guiding force for network TV stars until his retirement in 2022. 


Leibner died at his home in Manhattan surrounded by family members, Jay Sures, vice chairman of talent agency UTA, which bought Leibner’s firm in 2014, said in an internal memo obtained by the L.A. Times.

"Richard will be remembered as the agent who transformed the news business," Sures said in the memo. "To say that Richard was iconic and larger than life is truly an understatement."

Andrew Heyward, a former CBS News president, once said of Leibner, "Richard broadened the definition of talent in the television news business and increased its value enormously," the Times reported.

"Not just for the big-name stars, but for other people that may not be in the top echelon," he added. "You had this phenomenon of associate producers walking around saying, ‘I have another year in my contract’ with no irony. This was a new thing."

Leibner was known to get his clients "a fairer share of what the business is grossing," the outlet wrote.

The distinguished agent was born in Brooklyn and graduated from the University of Rochester. Reflecting on his success in a Times interview in 2022, Leibner said, "The major agencies were all focused on movies and television and making the big money in package fees. We were specialists, and that’s how we got the foothold and got ahead of everybody."

Leibner’s wife, Carole Cooper, a former TV commercial producer and fellow agent, was reportedly a driving force behind his business. She joined the Bienstock firm in 1976, helping to establish the careers of several prominent news figures. She continues to work at UTA, according to the Times. The pair were inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2018.

Leibner is also survived by his two sons, Adam and Jonathan, and four grandchildren.

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